Peter Wishart has been an MP for the Scottish National Party for twenty years; and he's a musician.
He joined the band Big Country in the 1980s when it was the supporting act was for an Alice Cooper tour. He later joined the band Runrig. He's now a founder member of the parliamentary rock group – drum roll – MP4! Wishart is also angry.
The pro-European MP says,
We now know that despite an offer from the EU, the UK Government rejected proposals that would have allowed musicians and performers to travel across the EU without visas.
Wishart has secured a debate in the Commons today to request that the UK Government renegotiate its decision during the Brexit negotiations that require performers to apply for touring visas. He says that the UK Government has treated performers “like pawns on a chessboard”. It has emerged that British negotiators rejected a proposal to grant UK performers visa-free tours in the EU because the Tories did not want to extend the same rights to EU artists visiting the UK.
I'm calling on Oliver Dowden [Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] to work with his colleagues in the UK Government and U-turn on this ludicrous decision – one which will not only leave creatives in the UK drowning in red tape, but will also shut the door on those European creatives who enrich the cultural tapestry of these islands.
Dowden had commented to NME (New Musical Express):
I'm afraid it was the EU letting down music on both sides of the Channel – not us.
He was referring to the EU declining the UK's offer of 30 days' visa-free work for EU musicians. However, the EU said that it was the UK's existing standard policy and offered no added value to its members. Instead, it offered the more flexible visa-free short stays – working up to 90 days in a 180-day period – with a list of paid activity exemptions that could exclude musicians, artists, sportspeople and journalists. The government said that this was incompatible with the Conservative manifesto of taking back control of Britain's borders.
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) said that under the deal UK performers would be considered as third-country nationals, meaning that they would have to adhere to the immigration rules of each EU member state in which they worked:
This will have huge implications for UK musicians who work within the EU… 78% of musicians visit EU at least once a year to perform.
Naomi Pohl, deputy general secretary of the Musicians' Union, noted,
When you're dealing with an orchestra, you're talking about 70 musicians needing to get a work permit. So it's a massive issue.
More than half of the income generated from orchestras on foreign tours is from EU countries, and European concerts account for three-quarters of the total they perform.
The situation is similar for smaller outfits. Stephanie Phillips of punk trio Big Joanie told the Guardian,
Why would they book a British band when they can just book someone a lot easier and a lot cheaper from a European country? It doesn't really make sense.
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, said,
We just want to understand what has happened and then take steps to resolve this situation. We need both sides to work with the music industry to find a solution that benefits everyone. It is vital that all sides now get around the table and agree a way forward that avoids needless red tape and bureaucracy that could put some tours in jeopardy.
Ahead of today's parliamentary debate, Peter Wishart said,
Scotland did not vote for this isolationist approach to policy-making. While the Tories at Westminster treat our creative sector like pawns on a chessboard, Scotland wants to open its arms and welcome our European friends and neighbours.
The UK Government has had time to reconsider this decision; to help performers and musicians, but they have done nothing of the sort. It's time for an urgent rethink before these opportunities are lost.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.